Gus Wojda keeps Pizza Sam’s cooking, open now for 63 years

Gus Wojda chose to stay in the family pizza business because it meant he could be closer to family.

Wojda has been working at Pizza Sam’s since 2008. He didn’t start out as owner – he worked his way up from doing prep work, maintenance, and into management. When his brothers-in-law chose different career paths instead of taking over the family business, Wojda began seriously considering a move from construction into the restaurant industry. 
Angela & Gus Wojda of Pizza Sam's
“[With the restaurant], I got to know where I was going to be every day rather than traveling,” says Wojda. “I also like the stability of it, instead of being on the job one day and possibly being laid off the next.”

Wojda’s father-in-law, Nick Stamas, opened Pizza Sam’s in 1960. Before moving to their current location at the corner of Main Street and Ashman Street, they were located just a few blocks southeast on Main. They’ve been there for nearly 32 years, serving as a gathering place for the community.

“It’s good to see people’s faces when they walk in and be that community staple where people run into each other while they’re here,” says Wojda. “... A lot of people from Midland who move away and come back, the first stop they make is at Pizza Sam’s. It brings back great memories and puts a smile on your face knowing that’s what a customer wants to do when they come home.”

One major change to their space is the expansion of the dining area. Once a neighboring rental became available, they were able to increase seating to nearly 110, including a banquet room available for special event rentals. 

“As we’ve been blessed with business, we’ve been able to expand and give more opportunities for people to come and dine with us,” says Wojda.

Over the years, Pizza Sam’s has expanded its dining capacity to seat up to 110 people.
Like many businesses, however, Pizza Sam’s has been challenged by the pandemic. In response, they expanded their delivery area and times. Now, delivery is available seven days a week from open until close. They still face supply chain issues and staffing shortages.

“Staffing is still an issue nationwide in about every industry, but we’ve got fantastic staff right now,” says Wojda. “Always looking for more of course as the busy seasons come up, but right now, everything’s floating along pretty well.”

As for the future of Pizza Sam’s family ownership? “It’s kind of undetermined at this time,” says Wojda, “I don’t think our daughter has any interest in it at this point, but things change. She just graduated from college in the spring.”

The secret sauce for a successful pizza restaurant

Have good food, of course.

Pizza Sam’s is always trying new recipes and following food trends. Right now, they’re trying out homemade apple and blueberry pies for desserts. They often create new pizza styles and recipes in-house, and in recent years, added vegetarian and vegan options.

“We try to give everybody their own flavor,” says Wojda. He says many people enjoy building their own pizza by selecting their favorite crust, sauce, and toppings. 

While Pizza Sam’s has experimented with different menu items, there are two things that haven’t changed over the 63 years they’ve been in business: the pizza sauce and crust recipes. These recipes were created by Stamas and other family members.

“Trends come and go and we try to stay with them, but we keep the backbone and the basics the same so our regular customers know you have what they’re expecting,” says Wojda. “There’s people who come in and say, ‘I’ve been coming in for 60 years; my dad used to bring me in when I was this big.’ They eat that same thing when they come in.”

Wojda's plans for Pizza Sam’s are simple.

“Just to keep serving our customers and hopefully bringing new staff and teaching them the ropes of good work ethic and customer service,” says Wojda.

Landen Wray tosses Pizza Sam’s homemade crust. The crust recipe hasn’t changed since the restaurant opened 63 years ago.So, what’s Wojda’s go-to pizza?

“I’m kind of just a pepperoni guy for plain pizza,” he says. “If I’m going to have a specialty pizza, I really enjoy our barbeque chicken.”

Hungry yet? Pizza Sam’s is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. They’re open for dine-in, delivery, and takeout. Orders can be placed online or called in at 989-631-1934.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Crystal Gwizdala.

Crystal Gwizdala is a freelance writer with a focus on health and science. As a lifelong resident of the Tri-Cities, she loves sharing how our communities are overcoming challenges. Crystal is also a serial hobbyist — her interests range from hiking or drawing to figuring out how to do a handstand. Her work can be seen in Wide Open Eats, The Xylom, Woman & Home, and The Detroit Free Press. To see what Crystal’s up to, you can follow her on Twitter @CrystalGwizdala.